Ireland, on the road tour in the emerald island

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Ireland, on the road tour in the emerald island

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Ireland is a truly amazing land! Rich in wild and untouched natural wonders, this island is a popular destination for nature lovers and hikers. But Ireland is more than just nature: indeed, the island has an ancient history, which has left it a heritage of interesting historical and archaeological sites that still surprise and excite visitors today. To really get to know the essence of this rugged and at the same time welcoming land, you will need more than a few days and a pinch of adaptive spirit. So here for you are our tips and everything you need to know before an on-the-road trip to Ireland.

Ireland at a glance

Ireland is on Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) and therefore it is one hour behind Switzerland. Office and shopping hours usually are from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m./6 p.m. Restaurants are generally close after 9 / 9.30 p.m. and often on Mondays and Tuesdays. But don’t worry: for an after-hours dinner, there are always the traditional pubs!

Ireland is proudly bilingual! In fact, English – spoken by the entire population with stronger or weaker accents depending on the geographical area – is flanked by Irish Gaelic, spoken throughout the island but considered the main language in some rural areas on the west coast (counties Galway, Donegal, Kerry and Cork).

The Euro is the official currency of the Republic of Ireland, while in Northern Ireland the currency is the British Pound. Credit cards are accepted everywhere-slightly less so those belonging to the American Express circuit-even in smaller villages. However, it is a good idea to keep some coins on hand for the parking machines, which do not always accept card payments.

For Swiss and EU citizens, entry into the Republic of Ireland is possible with a valid ID or passport. However, as a result of Brexit entry into Northern Ireland – part of the United Kingdom – is only possible with a passport.

Many travelers arrive in Ireland by airplane. The island’s main airports are located in Dublin, Cork – in the Republic of Ireland – and Belfast – in Northern Ireland, part of the United Kingdom. An alternative to flying are ferries, which connect the island – Larne, Belfast, Dublin, Rosslare and Cork – with the United Kingdom and France.

We love... Ireland!

Ireland is an amazing land! Rugged and wild but hospitable and welcoming, this island in the middle of the ocean is a popular destination for nature lovers and hikers, who choose it for their holidays despite a highly unstable climate that is, nevertheless, the very reason for its beauty. The island also has a truly ancient history, which has left it a heritage of numerous historical and archaeological sites, some of which are truly fascinating such as the large prehistoric area of Brú na Bóinne or the ancient monastic areas of Glendalough and Cashel. Many travelers choose to explore the island by planning an “on the road” tour, an excellent choice in our opinion! In fact, the island offers its best in rural areas and along the famous west coast coastal routes: the Ring of Kerry and the Wild Atlantic Way. But consider that for a tour of the entire island-including the north-you will need at least 20 days. Therefore, we opted for a slightly shorter tour, focusing our visit on the southern half of the island, from Dublin to Connemara. How about you, what are your plane? Whatever they are, here are some useful tips and all the information you need to plan your vacation to Ireland!

Why travelling to Ireland?

There are so many reasons! Ireland is a true jewel of nature, with its rural areas and jagged cliffs plunging into the ocean! You can explore them by car or foot: indeed, there are many hiking trails, from the shortest and easiest to the longest and most challenging. But Ireland also has a long and troubled history. There are many testimonies scattered throughout the island and countless monuments that are worth a visit and will surprise you. Finally, as part of the European Union, access to the island is easy and uncomplicated for European citizens or those from Schengen countries.

When to go to Ireland?

Most travelers choose to visit the island during Spring and Summer, when the weather is nicer and the rains are less intense. In summer, the average temperature is about 18 degrees celsius (64 degrees Fahrenheit) with some surprising days of full sunshine. However, the island has a decidedly capricious climate throughout the year. Therefore, the key is to be flexible and ready for all eventualities. During your stay you will surely find yourself going out in the morning in the middle of a universal downpour and finding yourself, after only a few minutes, in the middle of a beautiful sunny day. So take this into account when planning your itinerary, especially if you have outdoor activities or excursions in mind.

What to see in Ireland

The island is big and has something to offer for everyone! Although most travelers choose Ireland for its natural beauty, breathtaking scenery and cliffs, the island has a huge variety of monuments and historical areas that can satisfy the desires of the most demanding travelers. Don’t miss a guided tour of the huge prehistoric burial site of Brú na Bóinne, near Dublin, and some of the island’s finest monastic areas, such as Glendalough, Clonmacnoise and Cashel, which have some of the country’s finest and oldest Celtic crosses. For lovers of nature and scenery, absolutely not to be missed are the world-famous Ring of Kerry and the lesser-known Skellig Ring – a driving route that follows the coastline of the Iveragh Peninsula – the Killarney National Park – a wonderful nature park of more than 10,000 hectares – and the high Cliffs of Moher on the west coast.
A separate discussion deserves the cities: the lively, colorful towns such as Kinsale, Dingle and Clifden are opposed by large cities such as Dublin, Cork and Galway. Although these are generally listed among the must-see attractions, we found them – with the exception of Dublin – not very interesting and in some cases decidedly degraded. Therefore, our suggestion is to skip Cork –  alternatively look for accommodation in nearby, lovely Kinsale – and spend at most an afternoon in Galway – which offers a good music scene and some of the island’s most typical pubs –  perfect for a stroll downtown and a night in a city.

What to consider before travelling to Ireland?

Trip duration – For a tour of the entire island and to take your time to see the major attractions, you will need at least 20 days to spend all along the island’s coast. If you don’t have enough time, our advice is to limit your trip to the northern or southern half of the island, so that you can devote the right time to exploring and save a margin of time to be flexible, as Ireland’s weather is really unpredictable and can compromise even the most careful planning. However, the island is also perfect for shorter tours, such as a long weekend in and around Dublin or a full week exploring only the west coast.

Accommodation – The island has a good accommodation capacity, and with a bit of adaptability, you will have no great difficulty in finding accommodations even at short notice. Hotels are generally of fair quality, with some peaks of originality – such as the surprising Kells Bay House & Garden* – or quality – such as the elegant The Mustard Seed. In addition to hotels, there is a wide network of B&Bs scattered really everywhere, from big cities to remote rural areas – such as the Waterfront Rest B&B* with its wonderful view of the Sky Road. However, it must be said that the B&B category is the one that has suffered the most in Ireland from the Covid19 pandemic: there are many once-thriving properties that are now closed or in decline. Therefore, our advice is to choose carefully, read reviews and favor facilities with more recent reviews.

Weather and clothing – The choice of clothing to bring obviously depends on the time of year you are traveling to Ireland. We chose July, when the weather is nicer and less rainy. However, in general, the island’s climate is quite unstable and can change very quickly, So our advice is to bring layered clothing and, even during the summer, keep long pants, long-sleeved shirts and a sweatshirt or jacket on hand. Also, if you are planning long-duration outdoor activities – such as hikes or bike tours – don’t forget to keep something waterproof in your backpack to guard against sudden rain!

Meals – The island has an excellent dining scene that has developed in recent decades with the opening of several star-rated restaurants in the main cities. Therefore, for dinner, you will be spoiled for choice! But remember that restaurants generally close between 9:00 and 9:30 p.m. and often on Mondays and Tuesdays. A cheaper alternative with flexible hours are the many traditional pubs, which offer typical Irish cuisine-mostly meat, burgers and fish & chips-accompanied by great live music.

6 things to pack for a trip to Ireland

Passport – Although it is possible for Swiss and EU citizens to enter the Republic of Ireland with a valid ID, Brexit has made entry rules more complicated for travelers intending to border Northern Ireland or for those intending to travel there directly from another European country. Therefore, our suggestion is to bring your passport with you, even better if it is electronic. This will save you valuable time at passport control at the airport of departure and arrival.

Power adapter – In Ireland, power outlets are three-pronged and electricity is 230v/50hz. You will therefore need a power adapter to connect your devices. You can find plenty of them commercially for cheap.
Telephoto lens – If you are a lover of photography and if you own one, our advice is not to leave a telephoto lens at home. The island is at its best in the most remote and wild areas, and you will certainly find yourself wanting to take a photograph of those lovely seals resting on the rocks offshore or of one of the many picturesque lighthouses rising on the cliffs overlooking the ocean.
Cell phone car charger – an essential thing for any on-the-road traveler! Although most modern cars are equipped with USB outlets capable of charging a cell phone, in the unfortunate event that you are entrusted with an older or accessorized car our suggestion is to carry an accessory like this* with you, small lightweight and cheap!
Waterproof clothing – We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: the Irish weather is really fickle, so take care to bring some waterproof clothing or a k-way with you to protect you from sudden rains. And don’t forget to protect your backpack and camera from water, too!
Insect repellent spray – although insects are generally not a problem in Ireland, in some inland areas, in the woods or on the highlands we have on several occasions – for example while hiking in Glendalough – been hounded by annoying little fly-like insects that left our arms and legs dotted for a whole day. So equip yourself with a wide-spectrum insect repellent if you plan to do any outdoor activities!

Our road trip

Welcome to our road-trip to Ireland! We spent 15 days on the island in July 2022, intense days that gave us unforgettable experiences. Our trip started from Dublin – the capital of the Republic of Ireland – where we picked up a rental car that, in the following days, allowed us to explore the southern half of the island far and wide to Connemara and then cut the island in half and return to Dublin. Of course, we did not miss stops and detours to admire the breathtaking scenery, to make a boat trip or a nature rides, and to have lively evenings at the traditional pubs, where live music takes center stage!

If you want to read all the articles about our roadtrip to Ireland, you can find them by clicking here!

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